Morbius isn’t your typical Marvel movie. The premise – a genius doctor afflicts himself with vampirism in pursuit of a lifesaving cure for his deadly blood disease – makes it very clear that this film is tackling darker subject material than is usual for a superhero flick.
At times, when the bloodthirsty action kicks into gear, Morbius veers into outright horror territory – and we asked director Daniel Espinosa how he handled mixing that intense aesthetic with the style of a Marvel movie.
“That was one of the big challenges and the big questions that I posed to the studio when we started working together, because I always felt that Morbius has a subcurrent, which is horror,” Espinosa explains. “And that is not something that we usually have mixed with a Marvel superhero. And I thought that that would be interesting, to try to make a more edgier, outsider version, Lost Boy’s version of the Marvel superhero.”
Morbius’ experimental cure doesn’t just leave him with a nightmarish craving for human blood: it also gives him superpowers. In the movie, his newfound abilities have a unique visual style, with his echolocation (or “bat-radar,” as Morbius also calls it) and flight depicted on-screen with colorful, wavering lines that turn vibrations visible.
“I was at the Tate Museum where they had an exhibition where you could walk in, you could put on goggles, you could become a tree,” Espinosa says of what inspired the look of Morbius’ powers. “You could see the vibrations that a tree can feel. And when I had those goggles on, I thought this must be how Morbius perceives the world, that he can sense what’s behind him and what’s around him.
“I tried to create an almost surreal, psychedelic experience where those waves are, it’s a perception of how Morbius perceives his own reality,” Espinosa continues. “But also, when you read comic books, we have always used lines and colors to have powers feel more accentuated. I wanted also to bring the joy of color into cinema.”
The vibrations of trees isn’t the strangest influence on the film, either. As it turns out, Pokémon and My Little Pony were also sources of inspiration for Espinosa.
“Creating those powers and those colors was really the joy of trying to find a new expression and a new kind of beauty,” the director explains. “I have a six-year-old daughter and she loves My Little Pony, and I love how those colors work in those animation movies. And with manga movies, if you look at Pokémon, how they use lights and colors to push out the strength. That was one of the inspirations for me.”
Morbius arrives in US theaters this April 1, and UK cinemas this March 31. In the meantime, check out our guide to all of 2022’s upcoming major movie release dates for everything else the year has in store for us – and see more from our interviews with Espinosa and Matt Smith.